As published in the Record Journal on Saturday January 28, 2012
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — In a letter to Holy Trinity School officials earlier this month, Jack McGuire wrote that he would no longer let the church use the portion of his parking lot behind the businesses on Simpson Court. “We regret to advise you that as of this date, we will no longer be able to allow your parishioners, faculty and parents to use our parking lot located behind TD Bank at 6-28 North Main Street,” McGuire wrote in the Jan. 4 letter.
McGuire, who is in Florida, did not respond to a request for comment.
A November referendum overturned the Town Council’s decision to spend up to $500,000 to improve the parking lot behind the businesses on Simpson Court in exchange for keeping the lot public.
When the new lease agreement with owners of the four properties abutting the lot was reversed in the town-wide vote, the town and the property owners reverted to a year-to-year agreement already in place that offered public parking in exchange for plowing and other maintenance by the town.
McGuire, CEO of local insurance company Ferguson & McGuire, owns two of the four properties on Simpson Court through a limited liability company, one at 2 N. Main St. and another at 26 N. Main St. He filed his notice to quit the year-to-year agreement in 2009. Shortly after that, he withdrew his notice orally, but not in writing.
“Because of the town’s referendum, this property is considered private and no longer a municipal parking lot,” McGuire wrote. “Accordingly, our insurance company does not want us to assume liability for any accidents that may occur on the parking lot property.”
Christine Mansfield, chairwoman of the Holy Trinity School board, said the loss of parking has had an impact on the school.
“I think the effect has been tragic and disappointing,” said Mansfield, also a member of the Board of Education. “A winter scenario can only exasperate the problem. Until a solution is in place, we’re putting the kids at risk.”
An article in the Record-Journal last week said that McGuire had closed his lot to municipal parking. But John Le-Tourneau, a Republican town councilor who owns Wallingford Lamp & Shade on Center Street, has said he’s still seen people parked there when the businesses are closed. “I expect people to continue to park there because they have for years,” LeTourneau said. “It’s posted, but the lot is not shut down.”
McGuire wrote that he was in favor of the new lease agreement, and wanted to see the parking lot improvements go through.
“When the lot was considered municipal, it worked well for all of us, and we were in favor of it remaining that way and being expanded by the town,” McGuire wrote. “Unfortunately, that cannot happen at this time. Also, the town was supposed to maintain the lot, and as you know, other than plowing it, they have not done so.” McGuire said school officials should “advise the mayor and Town Council about your need for parking in the Simpson Court area and request that they reinstate our lot as a municipal facility.” Mansfield said that the church has been adjusting by having members park farther down in the public portion of the lot, or by trying to find parking on the street. But on-street parking is limited to two hours, she said.
A line has been drawn in the lot by the town and signs have been moved to demarcate the lot, but some people Friday were continuing to park in McGuire’s portion of the lot — behind TD Bank and the Body and Soul Day Spa. There is no physical barrier to keep parkers from using McGuire’s lot.
McGuire has said before he would consider restrictions on his portion of the parking area. “My response would be to treat my property as private property and restrict it to people who use my buildings, period,” McGuire said in August, when asked of his plans if the parking lot deal fell through. “Why should I be maintaining the property for other people? If the town is not going to come in and maintain it as a public parking lot, then I’m going to treat it as a private parking lot.”
The remainder of the municipal parking lot is behind Gaetano’s Tavern, the Masonic Temple building and the old library building at 60 N. Main St. Corporation Counsel Janis Small said no other property owners have filed the required one-year notice to quit the year-to-year agreement.